05 June 2015

E-40's Warriors remix of "Choices" and the state of hip hop today

Warning: Some mature content follows. Reader discretion is advised.

So I recently discovered E-40's Golden State Warriors version of "Choices".

Which make me want to rant about the state of hip hop today. I thought things would've changed after people got tired of the crunk/snap music garbage of my junior high/high school years (2003-2009), by whose tail's end the influence of corporate media like MTV and BET gave way to online media (MySpace, HipHopDX, YouTube...) where young people could be exposed to higher quality music of present and past. Look at the mainstream success of newer, quality artists like Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole, and veterans Kanye West and Jay-Z continuing to put out music done with care, not hype in mind. But now, it seems that something like 85-90% of songs that get most hype on YouTube or FM radio have this formula:

Beat: DJ Mustard style minimalist beat with drum machine, "hey hey" chants, and the same 3-4 synth chords.

Lyrics: Recycling the same crap from last decade about partying, sexual fantasies, dealing drugs, hustling-for-money-because-I-was-deprived-as-a-child, etc. themes. OK, even "real hip hop" like Notorious BIG or Mobb Deep rapped about that stuff. But at least they put *creativity* in producing their songs (which I'll go over next).

Flow: On one hand, I like how E-40 rewrote his song to pay tribute to the Warriors. On the other, the flow here lacks the punch of his classics like "1-Luv" or "Rapper's Ball" and instead turns to the lazy "talk-n-chant" flow of a song like Big Tymers' "Oh Yeah". At least when DMX rapped in "Ruff Ryders' Anthem", the song works as well without the "what?" at the end of every line because the lyrics have a varied # of syllables/pace per line.

And expanding on a point made earlier. There's a reason why I'll say, when discussing music, that a song like "Trap Queen" is trash while a song like "Survival of the Fittest" by Mobb Deep is art. Compare & contrast the lyrics, first to "Trap Queen":

Seen your pretty ass soon as you came in that door
I just wanna chill, got a sack for us to roll
Married to the money, introduced her to my stove
Showed her how to whip it, now she remixin' for low
She my trap queen, let her hit the bando
We be countin' up, watch how far them bands go
We just set a goal, talkin' matchin' Lambos

Vs. "Survival of the Fittest":

You shook cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks
They never around when the beef cooks in my part of town
It's similar to Vietnam
Now we all grown up and old, and beyond the cop's control
They better have the riot gear ready
Tryin' to bag me and get rocked steady
By the mac one-double, I touch you
And leave you with not much to go home wit'

And the artistry is far different: Fetty Wap sings his song with that dreaded vocal effect, Auto-Tune. Didn't Jay-Z declare "Death to Auto-Tune" back in 2009? Regarding "Trap Queen": Every line has the same structure, same number of syllables. In contrast, Mobb Deep (a duo) vary their flow: some long lines, a short line, another long line, then a series of slightly shorter lines, all while keeping to the beat!

Speaking of beats, "Trap Queen" has, like "Choices", the typical dumbed-down beat of commercial rap, with the drum machine and recycled synth sounds. In contrast, "Survival of the Fittest" doesn't condescend to the listener, as the percussion sounds like real drums (even if created with a drum machine most likely), and the beat has a variety of instrumentation (keyboard, with the occasional brass), which put together with the lyrics grab the listener's attention.

Geez, how bad can things get? Well, "Throw Sum Mo" by Rae Sremmurd featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug is basically a melody-less, Auto-Tune-polluted strip club anthem, obviously for teenagers stuck at home at night because they can't legally go to the clubs (and grown-ups too cheap to pay the cover charge).

"Hot N****a" by Bobby Shmurda - this ain't music either, just throwing around "N-word this, B-word that, selling crack there, insert sexually explicit reference elsewhere" to appeal to his brain-dead fans' base instincts. Oh, by buying his music, you're supporting a guy who is "charged with conspiracy to commit murder, multiple weapons possession, and reckless endangerment as part of a 15-person, 69-count indictment that included his brother Javese and fellow GS9 label-mate Rowdy Rebel."

I could go on, but I think I've said my peace.

You want a "party"/upbeat rap song that at least maintains musical integrity and does the crazy thing,  respecting women? Try:
And for "minimalist" music with softer beats AND TALENT:
Look. You can call me an old man yapping from his rocking chair all you want. But if you want to know why "rap music" is associated with hypersexuality, crime, and low quality, I think I've made my case.

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